Max Plaxton claimed the victory in his return to the Nimby Fifty on Saturday, May 31, as the Canadian Olympian earned his second triumph at the Pemberton mountain bike race in three years.
Meanwhile, Mical Dyck defended her pro women's title, reaching the North Arm Farm finish line as the fastest female on a blazing hot day in the Spud Valley.
Plaxton started to build his lead over the field up the Nimby climb, and clocked an unofficial winning time of two hours, eight minutes, 33 seconds. Cory Wallace arrived at the finish in 2:11:12 to take runner-up honours, while Ricky Federau (2:14:14) placed third in the pro men's race.
"I set a pretty good rhythm and felt pretty good," said Plaxton, also a Nimby Fifty winner in 2012. "I'd pre-rode this course a few times, so I kind of knew there was a bit of a rest midway up (the climb) and I kept it just under the limit."
Plaxton, a regular on the World Cup cross-country circuit, didn't end up making a May-June trip to Europe as originally planned, making him available for Saturday's race.
"It was kind of a no-brainer to come here," said the Tofino native. "I don't get to race a whole lot near home, so it was a pretty good opportunity. It's a great course, great training and just such a beautiful area."
National team rider Evan Guthrie rode to fourth place, and past Nimby Fifty winner Colin Kerr placed fifth.
Wallace hung around with Plaxton in the early sections of the 37-kilometre course, but began losing ground as they started to hit the 101 switchbacks beginning on the Happy Trail.
"I fumbled a couple of the switchbacks; he got about a 15-second lead," said Wallace. "Then he just kept stretching it - every switchback was about another second.
"Then I was just trying to hold these guys off," Wallace continued, pointing to Federau and Guthrie in the finish area. "I knew Ricky and Evan were a couple of the best downhillers here, so I was kind of looking over my shoulder."
Dyck retained her pro women's crown with a finish time of 2:44:37, which put her a little more than a minute ahead of second-place rider Amanda Sin.
"I wasn't sure how I would feel, and we've got a pretty strong women's field this year, so it's pretty cool," Dyck said of winning for the second year in a row. "It feels really good to defend.
"I didn't see (Sin) at all, so she must have been hammering the last half. I know I was in survival mode after the Red Bull Downtime."
Sin, riding the Nimby Fifty for the first time, stopped the clock at 2:45:42, and said she was thrilled with her day on the trails in Pemberton.
"It was awesome, I'm in love with it," Sin said of the setting for Saturday's race. "It's beautiful."
Sin said she was trying hard to make up as much time as she could on Dyck over the closing stages of the race.
"I didn't know where she was at all, just that she was ahead of me, so any time I had the chance to go for it, I powered ahead and hoped I would make up some ground," she said.
Jean Ann Berkenpas rounded out the pro women's podium in third place.
This year's Nimby Fifty, the fifth edition of the race since its 2010 debut, featured a change to the finishing section. The re-route, using Ramble On, Smell The Glove and Econodave, earned rave reviews from riders.
"It's great," said Team Whistler's Michael Boehm, one of the top local finishers of the day. "I will never shun more singletrack, so it was awesome. I didn't miss the highway at all. I was able to pre-ride it, so I knew it was coming and that helped a ton. People who hadn't... I think they were in for a nasty surprise, because it's harsh. It's punchy, technical climbing."
This year's race also offered a shortened, Lite course for the first time. The overall winner on the Lite route was 12-year-old Kelowna resident Hamish Graham.
Final results, including the Red Bull Downtime descent times, will be posted at www.webscorer.com.